HAMMOND, Louisiana – When Hurricane Ida made landfall, Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief was already gearing up to help clean up the aftermath of its fury. Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief, along with many other out-of-state units, has continued to lay the groundwork for bringing the states of Louisiana and Mississippi back to their pre-storm conditions or at least close to a sense of normalcy.  

We asked some recently returned Disaster Relief volunteers to share their stories and experiences, so far, from Hammond and these are their words.  

Jerry Bolander and Mike Taylor are both part of the Washington-Madison Feeding Unit but were deployed as assessors/chaplains for this storm.  

Taylor shared his thoughts, “As an assessor we had contact with the families that had survived the storm and they were so appreciative of us just being there to hear their stories of living through the storm but amid the rubble those that had a relationship with Christ still expressed joy for the many miracles they enjoyed.”  

There were houses that were barely missed when one hundred-year-old trees came within inches. And there was the house that had two very large pine trees that cut the house in half with the large limbs falling on each of the beds that would have been occupied by the children and parents. The mom and kids had evacuated to Fayetteville, Arkansas and the father was a few feet away from where the tree fell through the house.  

DR wheelchair
Picture courtesy of Jerry Bolander.

Trees and flooded houses are not the main story of any disaster but the relationships that are made by the neighbors, family and us that receive the blessings while trying to lend a helping and hope-filled hand.  

Taylor mentioned a gentleman with severe medical issues that was totally dependent upon an electric powered wheelchair that needed to be charged. “We were able to take him a generator and charge his batteries. There was a Vietnam veteran that could not speak due to cancer but spoke volumes with his pen and paper and was so thankful for some bags of ice.” 

Taylor summed up his thoughts, “Story after story of how God spared the lives of so many, and His desire for a relationship with us was demonstrated with the importance of our relationships with our team members and with those that we go to serve. In the midst of the mosquitos, He is still awesome!”  

Bolander elaborated on some of those experiences, “On September 8, Mike and I had a follow-up welfare check on people we had previously met. You would not believe how happy someone can get over a bundle of cardboard boxes. You may not be aware how valuable boxes become during a disaster. We have a Box Ministry as well as the other traditional teams (one of those often-overlooked needs). 

DR veitnam vet
Picture courtesy of Jerry Bolander.

 On Tuesday morning, September 7, Mike and I came across a Vietnam veteran and Army K-9 handler that couldn’t speak and we talked for 30 minutes! He motioned for me to sit down, he pulled out his notepad and we conversed for a long time. When asked where he would go if he left this world, he emphatically reached towards heaven. What a great joy it is to touch a few lives. 

On September 4, Mike and I pulled up to a house which belonged to a man in a wheelchair. The job was very small, but Mike noticed another need (just like Mike, for those in NWA that know him)! The man had an electric wheelchair that needed electricity to charge. Mike asked if he had other options to charge his wheelchair. He mentioned a couple of options which were not great. So, Mike arranged for us to get a generator. Ralph Ledgerwood and Scotty Baker came by with a pickup and off we went. Another one of those great blessings! 

Thank you so much for your prayers. It is appreciated very much.”  

These are just some of the many stories that come from helping those in need after disaster strikes. To learn how you can get involved with Disaster Relief and help with current or future deployments, visit abscdisasterrelief.org.  

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